How does Lord George Gordon Byron's poem "She Walks in Beauty" follow the conventions of Romanticism?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"She Walks in Beauty" shows elements of Romanticism in its simplicity of language, emotion, and celebration and idealization of beauty as pure.

The Romantics wanted to move away from complicated diction and Classical allusions to use the every day language of the common person. We can see this in the simple language of this poem, often using words of one syllable:

And on that cheek, and o’er [over] that brow,
So soft, so calm ...

Byron is emotionally moved by the vision of the beautiful and, to his mind, innocent woman. This is emphasized in the exclamation point in the last line of the poem:

A heart whose love is innocent!

We also feel Byron's wonder at how mysterious beauty is, and how easily it could be otherwise. The Romantics celebrated mystery and wonder:

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face

Further, the woman is taken out of a civilized setting and described as a creature of nature, very much a Romantic notion. The opening lines liken her to the night:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies

Finally, the Romantics tried to see people in the best or most ideal light, which is why Romantics are contrasted to realists. Byron decides that the beauty of this woman is pure, an intuitive (i.e. Romantic), rather than rational, conclusion:

Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lord George Gordon Byron's poem "She Walks in Beauty" exemplifies many of the typical features of Romantic poetry. 

The first way in which the poem follows conventions typical of Romantic poems is in its natural setting. The woman is portrayed as walking alone in a natural environment, and nature itself is seen as a source and standard of beauty.

The next characteristic of the poem that is typically Romantic is its celebration of innocence; the woman is praised for a childlike innocence and purity. In fact, it is this characteristic of her soul that makes her beautiful, not just her appearance.

The insistence on virtue as an inner state rather than as expressed in outward deeds also marks the increased focus on selfhood that is typical of the Romantic period. We don't actually observe the woman doing anything virtuous such as carrying food to the poor or nursing an injured kitten, only as having a virtuous expression on her face. 

Finally, the type of beauty described is not one of perfect symmetry, artfully tended, but somewhat more natural, something admired by the Romantics.

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She Walks in Beauty

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